Saturday, December 5, 2015

Weyburn, Saskatchewan Through the Eyes of a Railfan

Now that I've been in Weyburn for almost nine months, I thought that a post on rail related information in the area would be a good idea.

Although currently there is only one railway line that runs through town, Weyburn was once full of railway activity. Because of this, we will begin by looking at the current and past railway lines of Weyburn starting in the east and moving west, before looking at the mainline that still operates.

In 1908 the Canadian Pacific's Kisbey Sub was extended from Stoughton to Weyburn, and was the first railway to operate in the area. Atfer the extension, this subdivision stretched west from Arcola to Weyburn by way of Stoughton where it met the Tyvan Sub. Although today the Kisbey Sub is no longer in existence,  a small spur is still in use in Weyburn itself to service the Nexans plant. This remaining trackage sees less than one train a week, and I have yet to see a train on these tracks. If you were looking to shoot a train, Wednesday would likely be the best bet as CP tends to switch the local industries on that day.

Kisbey Sub Trackage in Weyburn

Kisbey Sub tracks eastward towards Nexans. July 2015.

Next we take a look at the former CN Weyburn Sub. This sub once ran from Talmage on CN's Lewvan Sub to Radville where it met the Goodwater Sub, the Avonlea Sub, and the Bengough Sub. In 1992 the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) approved CN's request to abandoned the sub from Talmage to a point near Weyburn.  Also according to the CTA, 1994 marked the takeover of the Weyburn, and Bengough Subs by CP. This takeover was more of a trade by CN and CP where CN got CP's Meadow Lake Sub in return. This resulted in the Weyburn and Bengough Subs becoming the Radville Sub from Exon (Weyburn) on CP's Weyburn Sub, to Willow Bunch.

Present day, and the Radville Sub tracks are still in place. However, CP has not run a train over this line in quite sometime, and plans to abandon the line eventually. This is why I have marked the sub in burgundy south of the Wye near Exon. The Wye still sees trains that switch the local industries.

You will also notice that CN operated a Wye on the edge of town, as marked below. This Wye, and a former part of the Weyburn Sub north of the Wye are now part of the Tatagwa walking trail system. The southern portion of the trail ends just shy of CP's Weyburn Sub, and is a decent spot to shoot a few trains on that sub.

Former and current Weyburn/Radville Sub tracks 

If you jump to minute 1:09 of this video, you will see the CP local tied down on the tracks to the ethanol plant (more on those tracks below), and CEFX 1036 hauling a train that was stored over night, off the Radville Sub.

Now we will take a look at the ethanol plant area, as well as the former Assiniboia Sub.

The Assiniboia Sub is a former CP line that ran west from Exon to Assiniboia. 1995 marked the end of this line in Weyburn, as the CTA gave CP permission to remove tracks from mile 0.6, west of Weyburn, to mile 36.5, just east of Pangman. The line west of mile 36.5 is still in service today after it was purchased from CP in 1999, and is now known as the Red Coat Road & Rail. The "Red Coat Road & Rail is an organization consisting of representatives of the communities adjacent to the rail line, including Rural Municipality No. 72 (Lake of the Rivers), RM No. 40 (Bengough), RM No. 71 (Excel), RM No. 70 (Key West), and RM No. 69 (Norton), as well as the villages of Ogema, Viceroy and Pangman." (Source). The Great Western Railway operates over this line on behalf of the Red Coat Road & Rail, and a tourist railway also operates on the line, but those are both for another post.

The 0.6 miles remaining in the Weyburn area are used to access the ethanol plant, as well as a few other small businesses nearby. The former Assiniboia tracks are now known as the Tatagwa Spur, and there is also the Promolas Spur, which gives access to the ethanol plant area. Currently, the ethanol plant itself is closed because of the downturn in fuel prices.

Tracks associated with the former Assiniboia Sub
CP Local on the Tatagwa Spur. Ethanol Plant in the background. March 2015.

Of course with all of these railway lines running into Weyburn there had to be yards for the trains. Although a big chunk of the yards are now gone, a small bit is still here. As seen in the below snapshot, the Weyburn Siding gives access to the remaining yard tracks, of which there are four.

You may also notice that I have labelled the former roundhouse, and the proposed location for the CP shops. The roundhouse is now more than a century old and is used by the Weyburn Public Works department, and the shops were never built (to my knowledge).

Moving west, we see the Soo Line Historical Museum, and the CP Van. Here is the description of the museum from the Weyburn website: "A stroll through this Museum, housed in what was originally an electric utility power plant building, will peak your curiosity. It houses a collection of artifacts that were used by Weyburn and district pioneers, a collection of Native artifacts, the Soo Line Historical Archives plus the Charles Wilson Silver Collection. The Wilson Silver Collection is the largest one man collection of silver known to exist in Canada. There are more than 5,000 items dated from 1750 to 1972. You will view everything from full tea services to opera glasses and spoons. Mr. Wilson was a bachelor who lived on the family farm northwest of Weyburn. After a lifetime of attending auction sales, he chose to will his collection to the Soo Line Historical Museum so everyone might enjoy his lifetime of collecting."

The Van, CP 437254, was built in 1948, and is on display directly beside the museum.

Also marked below are the CP Weyburn office, and local power track (local trains tie their power down here).

I have yet to visit the museum itself, but have watched many trains roll by here. Below we see the CP Van with CP 9640, 8793 & 5708 heading north on the main track.

This next bit took a little more research. Each of the elevators, and tracks that serviced them are labelled below.

Although none of these elevators are still standing, there are newer bigger concrete ones that were built outside of town. Saskhistoryonline provides a number of good images of the old elevators, and as you may notice, a number of them were purchased and/or repainted over the years prior to being torn down.

Finally, we will take a look at CP's Weyburn Sub, and the new concrete elevators. The Weyburn Sub is now the last continuous line that runs through Weyburn. Beginning at North Portal on the U.S. border, the sub travels north-west through Estevan, Weyburn, and Wilcox, until its end at Pasqua where it meets CP's Canadian mainline in the form of the Indian Head Sub.

The Weyburn Sub is operated under the Occupancy Control System (OCS), but I have read that CP plans to install Centralized Traffic Control (CTC) and Automated Train Control System (ATCS) for the entire length of the sub. When that will happen is another question.

Labelled below are the Weyburn Sub itself, and the elevators still operating nearby.

The Viterra Elevator north-west of town was built in 1989, and had expansions in 1998, and 2000. The facility is serviced by three tracks.

Moving a bit closer to Weyburn, we see the Richardson Pioneer elevator.This facility was built in 2002 as a full service farm centre, and has four service tracks.

in the below video we see CP 8776 south rolling past both the Viterra and Pioneer elevators. The furthest being Viterra, and the closest being Pioneer.

Finally, we have the Parrish & Heimbecker elevator to the South-East of Weyburn. This elevator was built in 1975 with expansions in 1992, 1994, 1998, and 2002. It was also the first farmer owned inland terminal in Canada, but was purchased by P&H in 2014 after shareholders voted in favour of the sale.

Here we see CP 9810 leading a northbound train passing the P&H elevator on April 19, 2015.

That's all for now, but stay tuned for a post in the future about my favourite locations to shoot in the area.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

A Unit From Each of North America's Major Class 1's on Video

Well, I've done it. Caught a unit from each of North America's major class 1 railways. And to celebrate, I will now share the very first video I caught of each.

Let's begin with CN as they were the first class 1 I ever caught on video.

On May 23, 2012 I caught CN 407 at Folly Lake, Nova Scotia. This train was being lead by CN 2438, and two other units, one of which was an IC unit. At the time I had just started railfanning, so numbers weren't overly important to me. Still not a bad catch, but we've come a long way quality wise since then!

Location of CN Catch

Next up was CP.

I caught my first CP train at Bedell, Ontario on August 28, 2012 with CP 8842 as the lone power for an eastbound. quality still wasn't my main focus at the time.

Location of CP Catch. Please excuse the partial side bar.

It was almost two years before I caught the next class 1, and it came in the form of BNSF 5766. Catching this unit where I did was pretty rare in that foreign power does not visit Nova Scotia very often. In the below video we see the unit trailing on CN 121 out of Halifax on April 23, 2014. I caught 121 at Bedford, and Truro being lead by CN 8910, BNSF 5766, CN 2651, and 7083.

Quality has improved greatly in this one, but because 121 leaves later in the evening the shots are after dark. Luckily for me, I am fairly good at finding well lit areas to shoot in!

Location of firrst BNSF Catch

The summer of 2014 I moved to Ottawa, Ontario after finishing university in Nova Scotia. This is when I caught the next unit on a CN crude oil train.

Here we see CN 2565 east leading a fast moving train near Ingleside, about an hour or so south of Ottawa on CN's Kingston Sub. Behind 2565 were NS 6644, and BNSF 5837! Another great lashup, which carried my first NS unit, and third BNSF.

Location of NS Catch

I didn't catch a CSX unit until making a fall trip to Syracuse, New York in 2014.

On the evening of October 5, 2015 I caught my first CSX train at Jordan, NY about 20 minutes west of Syracuse. This train was lead by CSX 7587, 5309, and 2643 on the CSX Rochester Sub.

Also of note is that at this point I had started my new channel name since I was no longer living in Nova Scotia.

Location of CSX Catch

Back in Ontario, the next class 1 was Union Pacific. In the below video, UP 8216 trails on CP train 143 heading west past Bedell. The power for this train was CP 8578, UP 8216, and CP 5966.

Location of UP Catch

The next one was a bit of a hassle to catch! Ferromex 4657 had rolled into Montreal the day prior (Jan 19, 2015) and I knew it was going to head back west the next day. Thinking that I had lots of time to get from Ottawa to Finch to make the catch, I took my time, but unfortunately for me I missed them by about five minutes! Refusing to except that I had missed them, I got on the road and tried to get ahead of them. An hour later I finally accomplished that, and grabbed two shots of them near Perth.

Location of FXE Catch

Finally, 8 months later I caught the last class 1 on the list, Kansas City Southern. At this point I had seen two other KCS units, but didn't have a camera with me at those times. This one didn't come easy either.

As we drove south on highway 6 out of Regina, Saskatchewan we neared the CP Weyburn Sub crossing at Corinne where I spotted a northbound crossing the highway. I quickly noticed a UP leading, and that the second unit was a KCS! Awesome! A quick right onto highway 39, and we were ahead of them by Wilcox. Pulling off at a rural crossing, I did a quick set up as the train approached.

Location of KCS Catch

Catching KCS 4831 marked the end of my attempts to catch all of the Class 1 freight railways of North America.

Also neat for myself to see the places I have been, and how the quality has improved with time. Hopefully the future brings more exciting trips, and catches.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Abandoned Rails Episode 2: CP Kisbey Sub

Instalment number two in the Abandoned Rails Series takes a look at Canadian Pacific's former Kisbey Subdivision.

The Kisbey Sub once ran from Arcola (mile 0.0) to Weyburn (mile 61.8), Saskatchewan via Griffin, and Stoughton. In Weyburn, it had a junction with the Weyburn Sub; at Griffin it crossed CN's former Lewvan Sub, at Stoughton a junction with the Tyvan Sub, and at Arcola it became the Arcola Sub to the east.

Google Screen shot of the Kisbey Sub. Started at Weyburn, ended at Arcola.
Today, all that remains of the Kisbey Sub is a short stretch of track in Weyburn which provides access to a Nexans Plant (A good timeline and history about that plant available here), and a short section of track also remains in Stoughton from the former wye to just north of the highway 13 crossing. The section of track in Stoughton is now used by the Stewart Southern Railway (blog post on them here) to park some of their power, access a elevator, and store cars.

According to the info I could find, this sub was abandoned in steps, and as permitted by the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA). The first section was to be abandoned was from mile 43.6 near Griffin to mile 60.9 just outside Weyburn in 1989 (Order No. 1989-R-370). This was followed by miles 0.5 near Arcola to 23.3 south of Stoughton in 1990 (Order No. 1990-R-126). In 1993, the CTA gave CP permission to remove the rails between Stoughton, and Griffin (Order No. 1993-R391), leaving only what is left today.

In mid July, I made a trip to Moose Mountain Provincial Park. The route to the park follows the old Kisbey Sub right of way for most of the trip, so I took some pictures along the way. I do need to apologize for the quality of the pictures in this post though. At the time, I couldn't find my camera charger, so the cell phone took its place. The charger has been found since.

Looking west towards the Weyburn Sub in Weyburn.

Looking east towards Nexans in Weyburn.

As you can see in the above pictures, the spur in Weyburn doesn't get used often. Usually Nexans only has two tor three cars at a time, if that.

Following the sub east, the next point of interest is near Griffin. Here, the Kisbey Sub crossed CN's Lewvan Sub. The Lewvan was pulled up a number of years ago, but recent enough that I could walk up to the old junction just off the highway and grab some pictures (I'll be doing another post on this sub in the future).

Kisbey Sub looking west at Griffin.

Kisbey Sub looking east at Griffin

Lewvan Sub looking south at Griffin

Lewvan Sub looking north, including the Kisbey Sub junction
Looking at the last picture above, you will see that the Lewvan Sub mile marker is still in place at the junction which was mile 37.

The next stop was Stoughton, where there are a few points of interest.

First, is the former junction with the Tyvan Sub, where there once was a wye. Today however, the Stewart Southern Railway uses only a small portion in the south leg to park its older power, as seen below. This is the west end of track in Stoughton.

There is rail under all that grass/weeds.

SSR power parked at Stoughton (looking east)
West of this location (to my knowledge) was the last rail that was pulled up.

Looking west at Stoughton.

Through Stoughton, where the track turns south-east for a short distance, the rail remains in place to service a grain elevator in town. This elevator was once a Saskatchewan Pool elevator.

Tracks still in place south of the junction

Continuing south-east for less than a mile, we come to the other end of track in Stoughton. Here we see a former Pioneer Grain Elevator. This elevator, unlike the previous, is now unused and acts as car storage area. The elevator is slated to be torn down due to a contract obligation, but according to this article, locals are fighting to save it! The article also gives a brief history on the elevator, and the materials used to build it.

For those wondering, yes those are empty oil cars.

Cars stored south of Stoughton at the former Pioneer Elevator. You can see the former Pool elevator in the distance

Looking south from the same location is a lot less exciting, as there are no tracks in place any more. Not sure if that business on the left was ever served by rail. Almost looks like too new of a facility.

Looking south at Highway 13 crossing

This brings us to the last stop on the Kisbey Sub, Arcola. This was once the location of mile 0.0, and marked the junction with the Arcola Sub. Today however, neither of those subs reach this small town. All that remains is the elevator they once served.

Looking east at Arcola towards. The elevator seen here was also a former Saskatchewan Pool Elevator.

The remnants of the Kisbey Sub to the west are not so obvious here. I believe that the ROW once ran to the left of the trees, and under that trailer in the picture below.

Looking west at Arcola

That marks the end of this segment of Abandoned Rails, but there are more to come in the future.

Extra Content

As I continued the trip east before turning north to Moose Mountain, I made a stop in Carlyle and took a few pictures of the Lampman Sub. Below, you can see that the signals for the old junction between CN's Lampman Sub, and CP's Arcola Sub are still in place, despite that fact the the Arcola Sub no longer runs through here.

Lampman Sub in Carlyle
A siding also remains in Carlyle, but on this day, it was only being used by a single piece of maintenance-of-way equipment.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Shortline Profile, Episode 1: Stewart Southern Railway

After starting the Abandoned Rails series, I decided that I would do something similar, only for currently active shortlines.

The first profile will be that of the Stewart Southern Railway (SSR) which operates 132 km over the former Canadian Pacific Tyvan Subdivision.

GMTX 2219, and 2222 head south into Stoughton, May 2, 2015
The SSR began operations in 2010, when Blair Stewart and an investors group purchased the Tyvan Sub after CP put it up for abandonment.

Built in 1904, the Tyvan Sub was at one point the longest stretch of straight railway track in the world. It is now second only to a stretch of track in Australia

Prior to the purchase (not sure if this has changed since), the last major upgrade to the subdivision was in the 1980's when the line had 100 pound rail installed. Today it is still jointed track  from start to finish. And as you can tell in the below video, leads to some rocky trains.

MOW equipment working on the SSR in May 2015

Originally, the main commodity to be shipped on the Stewart Southern was grain, with potential for other customers to come on-line in the future. That didn't take long, as the oil sector growth in Stoughton, and surrounding areas grew quickly in the years following start-up.

In 2012, the Stoughton Oil Trans-loading facility opened, and began shipping by rail via the Stewart Southern. The oil is loaded into rail cars in Stoughton, shipped north-west to Regina, interchanged to CP, and then onto the final destination from there. I've heard that CP runs some of this oil east over the top of the Great Lakes on trains 550 (formerly 608), and returns them on 551 (formerly 609).

SSR power sits idle at the Stoughton Oil trans-loading facility.
As you can see in two of the above photos, Stewart Southern has mainly been operating with leased GMTX power. I've seen three pairs of units in operation. The first being 2222, and 2219. Second being 2237, and 2213. And thirdly 2212 paired with a number I haven't yet had the chance to see.

SSR is also home to some older power. SSR 1010, 4255, and 1009. These three units are old GE B23-7s. One of which still sports a Santa Fe paint scheme. Below they are seen sitting on the wye at Stoughton, which is the location of the former junction between Canadian Pacific's Tyvan, and the Kisbey Subs.

I have yet to see these units in action. Not sure if they do see any any more.

In May I did a quick trip from Stoughton to Francis on the SSR, snapping a few pictures of the elevators along the way.

Cars parked in Creelman. A cloud decided to pop up as I pulled in here for a shot.
Fillmore Seeds Inc. at Fillmore, SK
Another shot at Fillmore.
And finally the elevator at Francis

At just about every crossing, Stewart Southern likes to remind drivers that any time is train time,

Before our parting remarks, an interesting read from Pipeline News Suggested that perhaps Stoughton could one day be connected to Northgate, SK where Ceres Global Ag. is in the process of building a large trans-load facility for both grain products, and oil. The site is also connected directly to the BNSF for easy access to the U.S. The main reason the question is asked is because Ceres holds a 25 percent stake in the Stewart Southern. I may have  misread the article, but they seem to think that the old right of way runs directly from Northgate to Stoughton, but there is a gap of about 21 miles between the former Kisby Sub trackage south of Stoughton, and the former Northgate Spur at Lampman. I have shown this in the picture below. You can read the story here.

That's it for the Stewart Southern Railway for now, but expect to see more on them in the future, as they are only a 30 minute drive from Weyburn.


Ceres Global
The Western Producer

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Journey to Lloydminster

On May 8, 2015 I found myself taking a trip to Lloydminster to meet up with some friends, and play a few rounds of golf.

On this trip I would be travelling alone, so I decided to take the "scenic route". The scenic route took me from Weyburn to Aylesbury, Saskatoon, Keppel, Biggar(didn't see any trains here), North Battleford, and onto Lloydminster

Departing Weyburn at around 11:00, it wasn't long before I came across a train.

As I drove north-west on highway 39, I passed a busy MOW crew working to the south-east of Yellow Grass. Shortly after, the scanner came to life, and told me that a work train would be coming south with CP 3104 in the lead. I made a quick stop in Yellow Grass, and waited for the work train which I could see coming in the distance, and it wasn't long before they rolled past me with five ballast cars in tow.

Later in the day, I learned that this train, and the MOW crew were working on repairing the tracks after a train had derailed overnight. Obviously it was not a serious derailment, as there was no sign of any derailment when I drove past, aside from the working crews.

Continuing on my way, the next stop was Aylesbury, which is located between Regina, and Saskatoon on highway 11.

Aylesbury is also home to the shops of the Last Mountain Railway (LMR), which is part of the MobilGrain family. The LMR runs from Regina to Davidson, and is home to some interesting power. Luckily for me, some of their units were parked in Aylesbury on this day. Below are some shots of the power.

M&ET 608
CP 5491, and 5493
MobilGrain 6901, and M&ET 604

It was a quick stop here, before I was on my way again. The next stop was to be CN near Saskatoon, since it had been awhile since I last shot a CN train!

Arriving at the CN crossing at Range Road 3051 just to the south of Saskatoon, I noticed lights in the distance to the east! A quick set up of the video camera was needed, and resulted in a decent shot of CN 2681, and BCOL 4650. Not a bad first catch of CN in a few months. I was in for a surprise though! As the tail end of CN 2681 west cleared, I heard a horn from the west. It was IC 2701 (in CN paint) leading an eastbound. Trailing IC 2701 was CN 5544, and acting as DPU was CN 8851.

It was starting to get a bit later in the day, and the main spot I wanted to get to was Keppel, so I hopped back in the car and headed west.

Keppel is located about 80 kilometres west of Saskatoon, and is also where the CN Watrous Sub parallels the CP Wilkie Sub.

I was lucky in that the ground was dry, as I wouldn't try and get into Keppel in my Ford Focus otherwise. The road to access Keppel is a narrow farmers road, and if wet, would likely be quite muddy and sticky. Below is a screen shot of the area.

As I arrived on scene, I grabbed my bag and tripods out of the car. As I was doing so, a horn echoed in the distance! I ran up the hill, did another quick set up, and within a few seconds CN 2123, and 2429 lead a potash train past me heading east. Bringing up the rear of the train as DPU was IC 2725.

CN is single track here, so I knew it would be a little while before a CN train would come west, and I had the scanner handy to get a heads up.

I also knew that it would be awhile before a CP train came along, as the drive from Saskatoon follows the CP Wilkie Sub for a good portion of the way, and there were no trains to be seen.

After waiting about an hour or so, the next train began to make its presence known with its distant horn. This time I would be prepared, and have the camcorder's rolling, and the camera ready.

A few minutes later, CN 2303 came rolling around the corner heading for points west. Trailing was CN 5406. Below is the picture, but you can watch the video here.

After the 2303 and its train passed, the signal on the right went green for a while, but changed back to red meaning a train was approaching.

I figured it would likely be CN 2681 again, and it was! This time I was ready for the shot, and believe it or not, had another perfect timing with CP 9739 west rounding the curve just as 2861 cleared view. (Video Here)

By the time CP 9739 had rolled past, I was getting hungry and decided to run into Biggar for something to eat, and then head north to CN's Prairie North Line (PNL).

North Battleford was the first stop on the PNL, which is a divisional point between the Aberdeen (to the east), and Blackfoot (to the west) Subs.

As I was driving into town, I heard 452 getting a clearance to head east. Unfortunately, I didn't want to head east because the ultimate destination was west. Fortunately, they were restricted to just out of town, where 453 would be meeting them. So, I quickly found a spot and waited for 453 to slowly roll into the yard with units 5546, and 5523 on the head-end (Video).

Now it was time to head for Lloydminster. I wasn't expecting to see any more trains, but would keep an eye out for some as the highway from North Battleford to Lloydminster parallels the CN Blackfoot Sub the majority of the way.

Sure enough, I got just to where the road and rail start to follow each other and along came IC 2718 (in CN paint) with 2243 trailing on a short eastbound train near Delmas.

I screwed up by not tightening the nob on my tripod, and it slowly tilted and messed up the video a bit. I managed to save the video by straightening it out as the tripod slowly leans. You may notice a bit of a shake when I noticed the problem just after the head end passes by.

As I got back on the road, I heard over the scanner that another train had given IC 2718 a roll-by inspection! Awesome!

So, I kept an eye out for this other train, and before I knew it I could see its tail-end. By time I got to the other side of Delmas, I was ahead of them and had set up and waited.

This is probably my favourite catch on the day, as well as the last.

Hope you enjoyed following along on this adventure. It was a great day out for sure.